Crumbling Capitol (copy)

A person walks through puddles in a tunnel leading from the Oklahoma Capitol to a parking lot following some rainfall in Oklahoma City. Renovations would correct leakage and plumbing issues at the Capitol, along with many other issues.  SUE OGROCKI/Associated Press file

OKLAHOMA CITY – A state panel approved a list of repairs to the interior of the state Capitol on Thursday and discussed the pros and cons of moving the Legislature and state agencies out of the building while the repairs are made.

Lawmakers passed a bond issue of up to $120 million last session to repair the facility, but some think the work will cost much more. About $100 million is slated for the interior of the facility, while the remainder is to fix the outside.

Thursday’s discussion by the State Capitol Repair Expenditure Oversight Committee moves the process for repairing the Capitol forward. The committee approved:

  • Replacing nonfunctional, deteriorated plumbing; below-grade sanitary waste and vent piping; plumbing fixtures; and leaking or degraded roof drains and piping.
  • Restoring and replacing electrical systems.
  • Evaluating the Capitol’s need for an emergency power system and the installation of generators if necessary.
  • Improving the building’s lighting and HVAC systems.
  • Replacing the Capitol’s four elevators with upgraded models that are expected to work faster and have a higher occupant load.
  • Upgrading information technology and security.
  • Enhancing the building’s historical character and removing nonhistoric or poorly conforming previous renovations; reopening the south entry as the building’s ceremonial entrance.
  • Renovating ceremonial spaces, such as the Blue Room, Governor’s Large Conference Room, legislative chambers, Supreme Court chamber and conference rooms.
  • Replacing roofs, walls and foundations to stop water infiltration.
  • Improving access to the building for people with disabilities.

“These are goals for the project that if proper funding is secured could be met,” said John Estus, Office of Management and Enterprise Services spokesman.

Capitol Architect Duane Mass said moving occupants out of the building during the repair process would cost more but speed up the process.

State Capitol Project Manager Trait Thompson said the Oklahoma Constitution requires that the seat of state government be in Oklahoma City.

“Research indicates that most state governments keep their capitol buildings at least partially occupied during similar renovations because finding space to relocate all function contained within a capitol is very difficult and recreating legislative chambers is challenging,” states a document provided by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

Legislators and others at the Capitol have worked in a construction zone before. Oklahoma completed the installation of a dome on its Capitol in 2002 without closing the building.

The timing of the renovations is still up in the air. The legality of the bond issue has been challenged by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent, who says the legislation that authorized the issuance of the bonds is a “special law” that would require publication of a legal notice prior to its consideration.

That was not done, and no bonds can be sold until his challenge is resolved, he maintains. His challenge is expected to be reviewed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

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Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465

barbara.hoberock@tulsaworld.com

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